The other day I witnessed an incident or, shall we say, an ‘act of communication’ that made me think of a certain type of office game. I was sitting in a café in Cologne when a group of businesspeople walked in. As they had turned up late, the table they had booked had been given away. This prompted one of the ‘suits’ to ask whether it was still possible to find room for six. Only, he didn’t say ‘possible’.
He said – and I am deeply sorry for those who don’t speak German, as this is untranslatable: ‘Ist das darstellbar?’ ‘Darstellbar’ is one of those smoke-screen words that are used excessively by many businesspeople to make what they really mean sound fancier, such as ‘lean in’ or ‘own the room’. I believe the correct technical term for such expressions is ‘wank words’. So my gut association was with the fine game invented to make boring meetings (here, the astute reader will notice a clear case of pleonasm – not to be confused with ‘neoplasm’, as Wikipedia kindly points out) more exciting. Of course, I’m talking about Wank Word Bingo (in American English, as well as German: ‘Bullshit Bingo’).
In its embosomed tradition of verbing, American English boasts the uniquely graphic word ‘bullshitting’, which Germans would usually refer to as ‘Scheiße labern’, equally graphic. In British English, however, as far as I’m aware, ‘wanking’ really only denotes the self-manipulation of male genitalia, as opposed to the manipulation of language. ‘Bullshitting’ in England is ‘to be full of shit’ (careful, dear non-native speakers, ‘shit’ in Britain is much more vulgar than in Germany – so use shit sparingly), or ‘to talk rubbish’ if you wish to be less offensive.
Meetings, though, are the same the world over. This is why WWB is such a success. And now for some practical application: I found this lovely ‘Bullshit-o-mat’ to generate your own manager phrases in German. Enjoy!
Next week, let’s go back to Cornwall for a little while …
The Pommes Buddha says: Vom Learning her hab’ ich einiges mitgenommen.